Cookbook Club: January with Ginger

I’m a slacker. I have not posted any recipes from my cookbook club meeting in January, and I had to miss the meeting in February.

You know who’s not a slacker? Our newest addition to da club, Ginger. She made 3 dishes in January, one of which was something that in my brain is the culinary equivalent of a Rubik’s cube: the Croissant. I always knew that it was possible, but I figured it was too hard to try. Sadly, crescent rolls will never compare, and I am ruined now. All hail home-made croissants.

Because I have been slow to update, I am posting all three of Ginger’s recipes. Below you will find Ginger’s recipes for:

1. Vanilla Roasted Pears
2. Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette
3. Croissants

Sadly, I didn’t get a good pic of the pears on my phone, but here is a pic of Annie enjoying them, among other things:

Annie, feasting on January's Cookbook Club delights

1. Vanilla Roasted Pears
Adapted from Sally Schneider at The Atlantic [adapted via Smitten Kitchen]

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-8 Bosc pears (nothing with prickly skin)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel and slice pears, making small neat holes in the middle to remove the seeds and the stems. Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the sugar (about half over the fruit and half in the base of the dish). Put a few small drops of vanilla extract on each of the fruit, mixing into the sugar where possible. Pour the water into the dish. Dot each pear with some butter (in the small seed holes works best).

Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing them occasionally with the pan juices (crucial to keep them hydrated). Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Serve warm and with all the pan juices.

2. Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

Via Smitten Kitchen: “Galette is a general term used in French to designate various types of flat, round, or freeform crusty cakes.”  The pic above was a slice from my plate, but the uncut Galette was pretty impressive looking.

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small, quartered pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:
1 medium butternut squash
2 glugs good olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2/3 cup Asiago cheese

1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal (it is crucial that the butter at this point is thoroughly cut up, and it really sucks to do and kind of hurts your hand, so keep at it because it’s totally worth it.) (Note from Colleen: 2 butter knives using a criss-cross motion will work in place of a pastry blender, but you might hate your life. You might hate your life either way actually, I hate making pastry dough).

Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender (but not mushy), turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. (If you’ve never caramelized onions, be sure to Google and read about it once in advance. This is another process that requires a fair amount of patience to do correctly) Stir in cayenne.

4. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and salt and pepper together.

5. Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round (at this point I use a pizza cutter to neatly cut the dough into a circle and reserve the uneven parts of the dough as extra reinforcements). Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (preferably with edges. If there are any larger pieces of butter in the dough they will melt in the oven and it will get unbelievably messy). Spread squash (roughly 20 ounces cooked), onions, and cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to reinforce the insides (if the dough is cold enough this should be easier than it sounds. At this point, mold in the extra pieces that you reserved from trimming it up to reinforce weak spots).

6. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes (I think it’s important, like any pastry, it is cooled on a rack to make sure that the bottom gets crispy and not too squishy. But this was super difficult to manage, so if you don’t feel like it don’t stress it), then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

3. Croissant Dough & Croissants
via Julia Child, obviously.

And though she be but little, she is fierce

1 oz fresh yeast (2 tablespoons)
3 1/2 cups flour, unbleached all-purpose (as low gluten as possible)
1/3 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
1 cup milk

4 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (1lb, 2oz) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour, unbleached all-purpose

PROOF THE YEAST. This is super annoying to do with no warm component, but in cold New York apartments this time of year it’s crucial. Switch to ¼ cup warm water (around 110 degrees) and ¾ cup milk. Mix the yeast with a few pinches of sugar and allow to foam on the top of the water.

Put the yeast, flour sugar, salt and 1 cup of milk into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the machine on its lowest speed (Kitchenaid 2), mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until a soft, moist dough forms on the hook. If the dough is too dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. In most cases if the dough does need more liquid, it won’t need more than about 3 tablespoons, but check carefully as you want all the flour to be moistened. Stop the mixer and look into the bowl. If the hook has not picked up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl, add a few more drops of milk.

Set the mixer to Kitchenaid 6 (typical dough setting) and work the dough until it is smooth and elastic, no longer sticky and close to the consistency of soft butter, about 4 minutes. To make certain that all the ingredients are perfectly blended you can remove the dough from the mixer after 3 minutes, and then with the mixer on high-speed, return plum size pieces to the bowl. The pieces will remain separate for a short while, then come together, at which time the dough is ready.

Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap it in plastic and put it in a plastic bag, leaving a little room for expansion. Keep the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the gluten time to relax; then refrigerate the dough for 8 hours or overnight.

Attach the paddle to your mixer and beat the butter and flour on the highest speed until smooth and the same consistency as the croissant dough, about 2 minutes. Reach into the bowl and poke around in the butter to make sure that its evenly blended-if you find any lumps, just squeeze them between your fingers. Scrape the butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap and give it a few slaps to knock the air out of it. Mold it into an oval 5 to 6 inches long and 1 inch thick, Wrap it tightly and refrigerate until needed.

Place the croissant dough on a generously floured large work surface (thankfully there is enough butter in this recipe that you don’t need to worry too much about having too much flour and making the croissants tough. Be over-generous wherever possible) and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour.

Using a long rolling pin, roll the dough into an oval approximately 10 inches wide and 17 inches long. Brush the excess flour from the dough. Center the oval of chilled butter across the oval of dough and fold the top and bottom of the longer side of the dough over the butter to make a tidy package. Gently and evenly stretch the folded layers of dough out to the sides and press the edges down firmly with your fingertips to create a neatly sealed rectangle.

If you own a French rolling pin (one without handles) now’s the time to use it. Hold one side of the dough steady with your hand and strike the other side gently but firmly with the rolling pin to distribute the butter evenly (this can also be done, as I did, with a jar of spaghetti sauce with similar effect). As you hit the dough you will see the butter moving out into the crevices. Strike the other side of the dough the same way. After pounding you should have a 1 inch thick rectangle about 14 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured, roll out the dough. If this your first time working with croissant dough, you may want to roll out the dough just a little to distribute the butter, put it on a baking sheet lined with flour-dusted parchment paper, cover it with plastic and chill it for 1 to 2 hours first; this way you won’t risk having the dough go soft or the butter seep out. (Each time you wrap the dough, make sure it’s well covered-even a little air will cause the dough to form an unwanted skin.) If your experienced, feeling courageous or have dough that is still well chilled, go on to make your first turn. (Note: if your hands are starting to feel particularly slimy, the butter is melting and you should take the cue and put it back in the fridge)

Roll the dough into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long and about 14 inches wide, with the long side facing you. Brush off the excess flour and, working from the left and right sides, fold the dough inward into thirds, as you would a letter, so that you have a package that’s about 8 inches wide by 14 inches long. Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet, mark the parchment “1 turn” so you’ll know what you’ve done, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Place the dough so that the 14 inch side runs left to right (the dough needs 2 more turns; you’ve given it one quarter-turn already). Making sure the work surface is well floured at all times, roll the dough as you did before into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long by about 14 inches wide (when doing the second and third turns, you may find that the dough has cracked a little. That’s natural; it’s a result of the yeast. Don’t worry, just flour the dough and work surface and keep going). Fold the dough in thirds. Place it on the parchment, mark the paper “2 turns”, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Start again with a 14 inch side running from your left side to your right. Roll the dough into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long by 14 inches wide. Fold the left and right sides of the dough into the center, leaving a little space in the center, and then fold the left side over the right as though you were closing a book. Brush off the flour, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

At this point the dough is ready to be rolled, cut and shaped into croissants!

Generously flour a work surface. Position the dough so that it resembles a book with the spine to your left and the opening to your right. For easy handling, cut the dough in half horizontally so that you have two pieces about 7 inches long and about 6 1/2 inches wide. Wrap and chill one half while you work with the other half. Flour the dough and roll it into a rectangle that’s 24 to 26 inches long and 15 to 18 inches wide. This takes a lot of rolling. Keep the work surface and the dough well floured and have patience.

If necessary turn the dough so that the long side runs from left to right along the counter. Carefully fold the top half of the dough down to the bottom (you’re folding it in half so you have at least one perfectly even side from which to cut. The dough is now ready for cutting.

(I totally threw away the cutting and rolling section and will re-write the best I can. I could not get a good visual from what was presented, and at this point I highly recommend that you just look at a damn YouTube video)

Ideally, you will want to cut the dough to look something like a series of Vs or slice of pizza shaped triangles right in a horizontal line (I was also reminded of a little upside down crown). It’s best to do this with a sharp knife or excellent pizza cutter. Again, imagine VVVVVVVVV where not only is the V itself is a slice of dough but the inverse space is another piece you’d use as well (you will have scraps at the ends where you have to cut to make straight lines, reserve these for later). The top of the Vs will be connected to the other side of the folded over dough and will look like this when unfolded: <> Carefully slice through the middle and separate into pieces.

Rolling! Again, consult Youtube for a general idea. Grab a small cup of water to keep your fingers moist but not too sticky. Place the piece of dough so that it looks like a slice of pizza with base facing you (think of eating stuffed crust pizza! Remember that? That shit was terrible). Pull off a small piece of the extra dough that was reserved from earlier and shape it into a tiny football, placing it in the middle of the base as close to the end as possible. Carefully roll from the base towards the tip of the triangle and fold and pinch the dough over the little football as evenly as possible. Place each of your hands on each of the corners and lightly pinch and straighten the dough as you roll towards the point and away from you (your hands will look like little spiders if they’re doing their job – pinching and rolling to make sure it’s a tight seal). Croissants have a signature look of 6 ridges, and it takes a little bit of practice. Once you’ve rolled it up, give it a second look over and shape it into a half-moon, and place it with the middle point side down so it doesn’t expand and roll off during cooking.

Give the croissants a last gentle plumping, carefully turning the ends down and toward the center to produce the classic croissant shape. Brush the croissants with egg wash and allow them to rise, uncovered, at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until tripled in size and spongy. (Reserve egg wash, covered in the refrigerator). The ideal place for rising is a turned off oven (one with a pilot light is fine) containing a pan of hot steamy water. To test that they are properly risen, wet your fingers and squeeze the end of a croissant: It should offer no resistance and feel almost hollow.

Arrange the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the croissants once again with egg wash and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate front to back and bake another 4 to 6 minutes, until the croissants are deeply bronzed. Cool on racks. As tempting as they are, croissants should not be eaten as soon as they come from the oven. The dough-and the layers within need time to set.

A note from Colleen:

Whew. You get all that?

This entry was posted in Appetizers, Breakfast, Entree, French, Recipes, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Cookbook Club: January with Ginger

  1. Angel says:

    A day has not gone by where I haven’t salivated over the mere thought of those croissants.

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